MENTOR MARSH: MORE HELP NEEDED TO PROTECT THIS GEM OF LAKE COUNTY

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” — Margaret Mead   To Mead’s point:  In 2000, a nursery near Sheldon Marsh in nearby Erie County, Ohio, petitioned the US Army Corps of Engineers to dig an 8’ wide drainage ditch; permission granted.   When the citizens of the area learned of what the impact and real purpose of the ditch was, they bombarded the USACE with letters of protest and won a public hearing.  The result was that the USACE rescinded their permit.

After receiving 9,000 emails, the USACE recently denied a permit that would have endangered Florida’s manatees.

More to our point:  The USACE extended the May 14th deadline for comments to May 30th because enough of us asked.

And now we have to keep on asking for what needs to happen to protect the Mentor Marsh.  Please help!

Shamrock Business Center (SBC), Ltd., applied to the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) on April 15, 2013, regarding further development of land that is the headwaters of Blackbrook Creek and upstream of the Marsh.

Being upstream, the Diamond Center development has had a negative impact on the fragile Mentor Marsh ecosystem.  Further development will mean a worse and increased impact.

The Mentor Marsh Board believes that SBC’s development of Phases II and III and the Mentor Marsh can prosper side by side if SBC’s development plans include options that lessen the negative impacts on areas within the Mentor Marsh watershed.

ON-SITE MITIGATION

To that end, the Mentor Marsh Board requests, as its Number One priority, that wetland mitigation occur on-site of Shamrock’s property.

Instead, Shamrock proposes to fill 14.9 acres of its on-site wetlands and asks for authorization to maintain a .74 acre site of wetlands it filled (stories high) without USACE authorization.  Additionally, to offset that destruction, it offers to create equal wetlands acreage off-site in Leroy Township.  Off-site mitigation is legal, though ineffective in preventing the increase in the volume and velocity of stormwaters as they’ll flow from Shamrock’s development into Blackbrook Creek and the Mentor Marsh. 

The City of Mentor addresses mitigation:  “We note that the compensatory mitigation for the Diamond Shamrock project is outside the Mentor Marsh watershed.  Why is this so?  The Museum and partners are currently engaged in on-site environmental remediation efforts within the Marsh itself.  Does it not make sense for any proposed offsite mitigation to come as a result of the proposed Phases 2 and 3 of the Shamrock project to be applied towards efforts within the Blackbrook Creek watershed itself—the watershed that will be most affected by the Shamrock project?”

 The Cleveland Museum of Natural History (CMNH) argues against the removal of further wetlands from Shamrock property:  “I am writing to express concern about the removal of more wetlands and alteration of the stream channel within the Shamrock Business Center.  The greatest threat is the increased risk of further failure of the culvert beneath the Black Brook Creek salt fill, downstream from the development.  Removal of additional wetlands and increased volumes of water in Black Brook Creek Basin, due to the proposed alteration of the channel, will increase the likelihood of failure of this culvert beneath the 255 ton salt mine spoil that was deposited at the mouth of Black Brook Creek in 1966.   At the time the salt fill was deposited, Museum Board of Trustees Chair Kent Smith attempted to convince the owner of the salt fill to use a better grade of culvert, but the owner refused.  Unfortunately, over the past 45 years, sodium chloride and lime kiln waste has leaked through the culvert, killing the unique swamp forest and shrub swamp communities that covered more than 89% of the Mentor Marsh Basin prior to placement of the salt fill at Black Brook Creek.”

The City of Mentor addresses the salt tailings’ damage to the Mentor Marsh:  “ In 1966, an estimated 255 to 265 thousand tons of low-grade salt ore were dumped into, or near the mouth of Blackbrook Creek at a site owned at that time by the Osborne Concrete and Stone Company.   Increased levels of salinity within the Marsh, largely from leaching from the tailings site, had a fairly rapid and pronounced impact on the Marsh ecosystem.”  The comment continues to explain that the increased salinity poisoned the extensive woody marsh forest ecosystem and encouraged the flourishing of Phragmites australis.  It also mentions the failure and collapse of the culvert cited by CMNH.

 The City of Mentor addresses another problem if Shamrock does no on-site mitigation: “Based on prior experience, it is a source of concern for the City of Mentor as to whether the diameter of the replacement pipe at the mouth of the Blackbrook Creek, and the pipe just upstream under SR2 and SR 44 . . . can safely accommodate any significant increases in stormwater volumes.

“We request that, as part of the proposed project, that an analysis be performed of stormwater pipes immediately downstream from the proposed Diamond Shamrock site, with particular attention to areas where said pipes run underneath State Route 2 and State Route 44.  Can these pipes handle the increased water volumes that may result from redevelopment of this proposed size at the Diamond Shamrock site?  It appears no plan for on-site infiltration at the Diamond Shamrock site has been provided thus far.  The development of more than two hundred acres at the Diamond Shamrock site into largely impervious surface areas . . . has the potential to contribute to downstream flooding events in the future.  Any new proposed phases at the site have to responsibly manage stormwater volumes.”

An individual asks a question about mitigation:  “Why is mitigation taking place outside of the Mentor Marsh Watershed? This area is being impacted, not property in Leroy Township.  Mitigation should be undertaken in this area, not on cheaply purchased lands outside the affected area “

 FILLING IN WETLANDS WITHOUT A PERMIT

The Mentor Marsh Board strongly objects to Shamrock’s having filled in wetlands without a permit and asks that any fines levied be applied to Mentor Marsh mitigation.

The Ohio Environmental Council comment on the matter:  “In regards to the 0.74 acres that SBC Ltd. filled without permission, we urge the USACE to properly fine SBC Ltd and require the appropriate remedy to this unauthorized fill. . . .  To not properly remedy this unauthorized activity would send the message that such activity is acceptable and would encourage further disregard for CWA laws and regulations.”

An individual’s comment on the matter:  “By filling .74 acres of a known wetland earlier without permission, the applicant has shown itself to be a poor steward of the land.  As such, the applicant should be looked upon as a potential risk for non-compliance on future projects.

CONCLUDING STATEMENTS

The Mentor Marsh Board believes the steady degradation of the Marsh shows that if you tug on one string of Nature, you’ll find it connected to everything else in Nature.  The Board urges the USACE to implement the request  from the City of Mentor:  “We now respectfully submit to the US Army Corps of Engineers that on-site stormwater management at the Shamrock site and potential downstream impacts, moving forward should not be viewed solely from the perspective of on-site conditions.  Furthermore, any potential or proposed off-site mitigation is better served if it were to address ongoing environmental restoration efforts proposed and underway further downstream within the Marsh and Nature Preserves.” 

If you want copies of the complete documents cited above, please email clement@ncweb.com.

 Shamrock Business Center’s application + pertinent maps are at  http://www.lrb.usace.army.mil/Portals/45/docs/regulatory/publicnotices/April2013/PN1997-5010004Oh.pdf

NB:  The above comments from organizations are not opinions; they’re facts based on science and empirical observations.  They’re part of the public record.  Feel free to refer to them and augment them in expressing your own comments.

Please contact the US Army Corps of Engineers at the address below by May 30, 2013, with your comments on SBC’s proposed development plans.

Michael W. Smith                                                OR     michael.w.smith@usace.army.mil

US Army Corps of Engineers,

Buffalo District, Regulatory Branch

1776 Niagara Street

Buffalo NY14207-3199      (716) 879-4262

MUST INCLUDE:  Re. Application #1997-5010004

SUGGESTED INCLUSIONS:

Please support the Mentor Marsh’s requests and include your own requests and comments.

Please thank Mr. Smith for having extended the deadline for comments to May 30, 2013.

Because a public hearing isn’t a given, please request a public hearing re. the above Application #.

Because some comments slip through the cracks, please state that you want your comments to become part of the public record re. the above Application #.

Please direct questions to the Mentor Marsh at 440 257-0777.

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